First Time on The Winter Road

People who don’t live in the far north probably have no idea what a winter road is. The truth is there are a lot of communities in northern Ontario that do not have a road running into them. These communities have airstrips and for most of the year, this is the only way into the community.

In the winter when the lake freezes, a winter road is maintained and operated so that people can drive out of their communities. So for a few months every year, the people who live in these communities have another way out of town. Driving is cheaper and allows the residents to transport heavy and bulky objects that would be really expensive to ship by air. Communities depend on the winter road to bring up all the fuel and building materials they will need for an entire year, until the road is reopened next season.

Being from southern Ontario, I was always cautioned to stay off the ice. I wasn’t allowed to play on the ice or to walk over it. I had heard stories about people falling through the ice and drowning. So when I decided to go visit some friends up north this long weekend, I was a little leery of going on the winter road. Driving over a frozen lake just didn’t sound like a good idea to me. Fortunately, I was in the passenger seat for this trip, and my friend told me that it was perfectly safe. So we set off over the frozen lake in his pickup truck.

It was quite unlike anything I had ever seen before. There aren’t any road signs and the road can be a bit bumpy in places. You cannot go too fast on it either because that can create waves under the ice.

The road is maintained and plowed. The snow that has fallen all winter makes it look like the road is actually lower than the rest of the lake. You need to be careful to stay on the road so that you don’t get stuck in a snow bank on the side. You come across big eighteen-wheeler trucks, such as this one I snapped a picture of as we passed it.

My friend let me drive for a few kilometers too. It felt a lot different than just driving on a snow covered road. I’m sure that I’d get used to it if I had to do it all the time, but the truth is, it was a bit scary. If I wasn’t with a good friend who drove on it often, I don’t know if I would’ve been comfortable at all. But it is seasonal life for a lot of people. And it was beautiful being out there in the middle of nowhere on the frozen lake.

4 Comments on First Time on The Winter Road

  1. Wow, that must have been weird, driving on roads made of ice. What was the speed limit you had to follow? How fast could you actually go? Hope you made it home before dark. It’s not like you could string up any light posts along the way. He he.
    S

  2. I was watching the speedometer as we went. My friend drove about 60 km/hr most of the time. He got up to 80 km a few times though. There aren’t any speed limits but it isn’t safe to go too fast. The road is a bit bumpy and uneven in spots. Also, going too fast creates waves under the ice that can damage the road as well.

    It’s hard to drive in the day too because it is so bright. Sunglasses are a must. But yeah, I didn’t drive at night. Apparently it is nicer to drive at night.

  3. What an incredible experience, Chase. I wonder how long it will be before global warming puts an end to such excursions.

  4. ECD, climate change has already started to have an effect. The road apparently used to be open a lot longer in years passed.

    Things are warming up already. It probably won’t be open much longer this season. People have told me that it was open until May in years passed. That is saying a lot.

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